Have you heard that a new Nutrition Facts label is on its way? You may be wondering what has been changed, deleted or added – and when the new changes will take effect. Read on to get all the facts.
The Nutrition Facts label, required on most packaged foods and beverages, is getting a face-lift and a facts-lift. The last major overhaul was back in 1990. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the government agency responsible for drafting and implementing the regulations that food and beverage manufacturers must follow. (The exception being certain meat, poultry and processed egg products, which are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.) The main goal of the Nutrition Facts label is to make sure that consumers have the nutrition information they need to make informed choices about what they eat based on up-to-date nutrition guidelines and healthful eating priorities, such as those from the Dietary Guidelines. (Learn more about the Dietary Guidelines.)
The new label will have changes in its appearance as well content. I’ve recapped the additions and deletions below, with a focus on changes of particular interest to people living with diabetes. (Read more about eating and diabetes and be sure to talk to your diabetes care team if you have questions about your meal plan.)
Servings per container and serving size will appear in this order (below, right) rather than the reverse on the previous label (below, left). They’ll be in bigger size print to draw attention.
Serving sizes, by FDA regulation, must be based on what people will most likely eat, not the amounts they should eat. The amounts of foods consumed have changed over the years, which means the serving sizes that manufacturers use on the label should change as well. For example, you’ll see changes like instead of a ½ cup ice cream, the serving will be ⅔ cup, or a serving of a carbonated soft drink will be 12 ounces rather than 8 ounces.
Packages of foods or beverages that contain between 1 and 2 servings must be labeled as “1 serving” because people typically eat it as 1 serving.
Packages of food or beverages which are larger than a single serving (the designated serving size), but could be eaten as one or more servings, will have to provide two columns of nutrition facts detailing the information per serving and per package.
The word calories and the number of calories will appear in large, bold print to highlight its importance in making healthy food choices. Calories from fat will be deleted. That’s because current science suggests that the type of fat is more important than the amount. “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat” will remain on the label.
Topic: Total Carbohydrate, Total Sugars and Added Sugars
Use of the word Sugars will change to Total Sugars. Total Sugars includes the total of all sugars in foods – those that are naturally in foods plus any added sugars. Added Sugars are those sugars added during the processing and/or packaging of foods by the food manufacturer. This includes all sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, other syrups and sugars from concentrated fruit or vegetable juices. (Learn more about added and dietary sugars.)
New to the label and indented under Total Sugars will be the grams and percent of Added Sugars per serving. This will allow you to see the amount of added sugars per serving or whole container.
One more new bit of information under Total Carbohydrate will be the percent Daily Value of added sugars that the serving of food or beverage represents within a 2000 calorie per day eating plan.
The addition of all of this information about sugars is due to concerns about the large amount of added sugars that Americans currently eat, and related health concerns, including the increased risk for type 2 diabetes. The recommendation to add this information was made in the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report and then included by FDA in their revisions to the label.
Access to this new information may help people with diabetes more easily detect and limit calories from added sugars and allow them to focus on choosing more healthy sources of carbohydrate like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and low fat dairy foods.
Topic: Vitamins and Minerals
The current label provides information on the percent of Daily Value one serving of the food offers of two vitamins, A and C; and two minerals, calcium and iron. On the new label vitamin D will be the only vitamin listed and potassium will be the third mineral listed. These changes were made because deficiencies of vitamin A and C are now rare, whereas today Americans don’t always eat enough vitamin D and potassium.
So when will we see these changes on grocery store shelves? Not so soon. Manufacturers with $10 million or more in annual sales must use the new label format on their products by July 26, 2018. Smaller manufacturers have one additional year – so July 2019 – before they must comply.
Hope Warshaw, MMSc, RD, CDE*, is the author of several best-selling books published by the American Diabetes Association, including Eat Out Eat Well – The Guide to Eating Healthy in Any Restaurant and Diabetes Meal Planning Made Easy. She’s a frequent contributor to Diabetic Living magazine. Warshaw is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.
*“Certified Diabetes Educator” and “CDE” are certification marks owned and registered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). NCBDE is not affiliated in any way with Sanofi US. NCBDE does not sponsor or endorse any diabetes-related products or services.
© 2016 The DX: The Diabetes Experience